UPDATE 1-Macau gaming revenue soars 58 pct in 2010

* Macau gaming revenues up 58 pct to record $23.5 bln in 2010

* Analysts say growth to slow in 2011 given high base, risks
(Updates with quotes and details)

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG, Jan 3 (BestGrowthStock) – Casino revenue in Macau soared
58 percent in 2010 to a record 188.34 billion patacas ($23.51
billion) year on year, bolstered by a flood of gamblers from
mainland China on continued strength in the Chinese economy.

December gambling revenue jumped 66.4 percent to a record
monthly high of 18.883 billion patacas, the Macau Gaming
Inspection and Coordination Bureau said on its website.

In recent years, the once sleepy southern Chinese city has
metamorphosed into the world’s largest gambling hub, with the
latest numbers pushing it even further ahead of rival Las Vegas.

The stellar growth in revenue in 2010 contrasts with 10
percent growth in 2009 — even without the relaxation of visa
restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors and a recent reminder
from China’s premier Wen Jiabao for improved regulation and
diversification of Macau’s economy away from gambling.

Some analysts said discretionary spending by affluent Chinese
would continue to power Macau’s gambling sector — the only place
in China where casino gambling is legal — to new heights in 2011
despite global economic storm clouds, although growth could
moderate somewhat.

“The absolute level of the market is massive so it’s hard to
sustain that level of growth,” said Aaron Fischer, CLSA’s head of
Asian gaming research, who expects Macau gambling revenue growth
of 20 percent this year and 25 percent in 2012.

Janet Brashear of Bernstein research expects 17 percent
market growth this year but noted in a recent report that limits
on new gambling table capacity, a reluctance to approve new
casino developments and possible tighter regulations on the
junket operators that run lucrative VIP rooms, could eat into
profits.

“There could easily be a 10 percent swing in either
direction,” Brashear wrote. “Government and economic variables
abound however, which could alter the growth rate dramatically in
either direction.”

With a skyline already crammed with neon edifices, two new
integrated casino resorts will be finished within 18 months on
the Cotai strip, modelled as Asia’s answer to Vegas’ neon alley.

Macau’s six casino operators include U.S. giants Las Vegas
Sands Corp (LVS.N: ) via Sands China Ltd (1928.HK: ) and Wynn Resorts
Ltd (WYNN.O: ) through Wynn Macau Ltd (1128.HK: ), along with
homegrown players Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd (0027.HK: ) and
SJM Holdings Ltd (0880.HK: ), and joint ventures Melco Crown
Entertainment Ltd (MPEL.O: ) and a casino jointly operated by MGM
Mirage (MGM.N: ).
(Editing by Chris Lewis)

UPDATE 1-Macau gaming revenue soars 58 pct in 2010